Natalie was humming a tune, looking out the window with a sullen face. She was angry with her mother because she hadn’t ordered a pizza for dinner tonight. She had to eat that bland, ready made oven cooked pasta. They had been late already, it was a few hours’ ride home and soon it was going to get dark. Which was , for young Natalie, irrelevant. Emily had promised to make it up to her the next day, but the response was an angry and an equally doubt-full look from the corner of her eyes.
“What is that song you keep humming sweetheart”? Asked Jacob, “I feel like I have heard the song before but cant remember exactly which one.”
This time it was Jacobs turn to get the angry stare. “Someone is not happy today.”
“You wouldn’t know the song, she made it up and it changes according to her mood.” said Emily.
“I knew my daughter was talented and smarter than other kids who have imaginary friends.” Said Jacob scooping up Natalie into his lap.
“I have an imaginary friend too, his name is Vinxent Ferry Mcggenheart.” Informed Natalie, speaking for the first time since they started their journey home.
“What do you think of that father?” Teased Emily.
“I think, the fact that she realizes he is imaginary and that she could invent a name like that makes her even more smart, she is a genius!” Beamed Jacob.
Natalie giggled at that.
“What do you say we forgive your mother this time, after all she works very hard and loves you very very much”.
“Okay.” Agreed Natalie, in a firm tone. “But only this once.”
“Only this once. Your littleness.”
After a while, Natalie was fast asleep, it was pitch dark outside , save for the way lightened by the stark headlights. Wind was blowing fast enough to declare its presence, soon it started raining heavily. Natalie drove more carefully, accidents in this weather weren’t too uncommon, it had been raining for the most part of an hour, and it didn’t look like it was going to withdraw any sooner. Emily looked at Natalie, sleeping peacefully in her fathers lap and she thought to herself how lucky she was to have such a wonderful daughter, and an equally wonderful husband.
“We have an amazing daughter, don’t we Em?” said Jacob stealing her thoughts.
“Yes, we do. You were five years late to realize that.” Teased Emily.
Jacob was about to retort back, but stopped himself, seeing Emily looking out the opposite window, distracted.“What is it?”
“I think I saw something.. someone out on the road.”
“Are you sure? Why would someone be out here in this weather?”
“I know, must be something else.”“I can drive if you want, my arm is healed enough to at least drive.”
“No, I am fine Jacob, anyway we will be home soon.”Chasing the thoughts away, Emily concentrated on the road ahead. Just then the lightening struck. The surroundings lit up, Emily saw an old man standing in the middle of the road, holding an ax over his chest, its unbelievably sharp edge glimmering in the black of the night. He was staring right at them with an icy hatred, that rage in his eyes was enough to stop anyone dead where they stood. And then it was dark again, the old man was gone ,Emily hit the breaks hard, the car skidded to a halt. they heard the thunder in the distance. Another lightening crackled in the sky, lighting up the now empty road. Jacob had gathered Natalie in his arms.
“Did you see him?”
“I did.” Said Jacob.
“He was right here, where did he go? Jacob, I think he was the same man I…
“Em! drive! And don’t stop this time!” Interrupted Jacob.
Emily’s hands were shaking as she started to drive. Jacob was reassuring her but she wasn’t listening with her heart hammering in her chest, her eyes unsteady. She heard a roar, coming from her right side, and then the lightening struck again somewhere around them, as the light filled the night, she saw the old man charging at her, she panicked and accelerated. but there was a felled tree on the road, Emily swerved to the left with all her might, trying to avoid getting doubled over by the tree, she managed to get off the road but because of the speed of the car she couldn’t get it back on the road, the car skidded toward the slope. Emily lost control, the car flipped and rolled over downwards until it smashed against a tree with a glass shattering bang.
© Ankur Gedam